June 29, 2010


I love being in my new house, but man, it really takes a long time to put everything together. Did you realize for example that the following items are essential:

- a thick marker for marking your garbage can and recycling bin (which finally arrived after ordering them a month ago) so your neighbor's don't steal your shit
- 6 placemats and assorted napkins, in case you are planning on inviting people over for dinner
- a tray for your dishrack to prevent water from constantly trickling down your cupboards
- bamboo skewers for your tomato plants (ok so I grew tomato plants from seed, yay, and they have gotten so big they're flopping over. I tried to find a trellis for them, but no luck. Instead, I placed three bamboo skewers at the base of most plants, in a teepee-like contraption, and tied the stem to the "teepee" with thick string)

And that's only the stuff I bought today! That's not even including the big things like a bookshelf for my bedroom, a proper bedframe, a dining room sideboard, etc.

My housemate also mentioned that we need a doormat, and went in excruciating detail about the importance of a doormat (mainly to prevent dirt from tracking into the house). So when I was in Target today, I saw a bunch of doormats, and quite liked the look of a green one. I thought about it for a bit, felt its consistency, judged the price, thought about it some more, and decided not to buy it, because walking home with it would be cumbersome.

I get home after walking in the heat for 40 minutes... And what do I see? The green placemat on my doorstep! My housemate had picked it up just 1 hour before!

June 19, 2010

I (heart with an arrow through it) Pepco

OK, so rereading my posts again, I really don't want to give the impression that all went according to plan. It didn't and I tried to keep my cool throughout but sometimes it took superhuman strength not to loose it.

A really distressing incident was when the electricians did a heavy up (increased the power going to the house) on the electricity.

Usually, what happens is this:

1 – Contractor hires electricians
2 - Electricians apply for a permit with D.C.R.A. (D.C. Regulatory agency) to do the work on this specific house
3 – Electricians complete the work
3 - Pepco does an inspection of the site to confirm that the project was well done
4 - Pepco either a) turns on the power if it was off or 2) increases the power to the house if the power was on during the entire upgrade

What actually happened was this:

1- Contractor hired electricians
2 – Electricians applied for a permit with DCRA
3 - Electricians took their sweet-ass time upgrading the electricity, especially in the light of my contractor being away for training for a week.
4 – Just before the inspection is due, boom! Pepco decides to turn off the electricity. I call a few times on the first day (Thursday), and am promised that it will be turned on the next day
5 – It doesn’t turn on the next day. I call 8 different people, at least 15 different times. DRCA and Pepco blame each other and Pepco gives the following excuses for the electricity being turned off:
- your name’s not on the bill (not true)
- you did an illegal heavy up (nope, all the permits are there, and DCRA verified they were all legit)
- DCRA didn’t send us the inspection documents (well that’s because the work just got finished and we haven’t called them
for the inspection)
- Well we need the inspection paperwork (ok, but this doesn’t explain why you cut off the electricity – but DCRA peeps were
amazing and came to do an inspection on Sunday! Thank you DCRA, this is above and beyond the call of duty!)
- We don’t have the right equipment to reconnect you
- We don’t have the right people to come reconnect you
- The owner had an illegal hookup since October 2008 (try calmly explaining 4 times in a row that you bought the house in
end of February 2010 and had no clue, and you shouldn’t have to suffer for someone else doing something illegal on your
property way before you bought it)

And this goes on and on, and on, in the summer heat (no lights, no air conditioner, everything in the fridge rots and reeks) for SIX DAYS.

SIX DAYS of calling 15 times a day, of talking to different people who don't talk to each other, of hearing a million different excuses, of complying with their requirements and getting nothing is return. SIX DAYS of not being able to concentrating on your day job because you're worried your food will attract rats, and your roommate will move out, and your contractor should be doing this, and etc, etc, etc...

At the end of the six days, I got everybody to call both Pepco and DCRA (contractor, roommate, ANC commissioner), I begged, pleaded, got mad, stayed calm, tried reasoning with them, tried acting stupid, all to no avail.

A lady from Pepco finally came to the house (when only my roommate was around) called a large number of people in the upper chain of command in Pepco demanding answers. She relayed to him a story of a couple with small children, who went without electricity and was given the same run around, for 90 DAYS!!

The next day, she convinced the higher powers-that-be-in-Pepco to send an emergency crew to my house to reconnect it. I could have kissed the guy who reconnected me on the mouth, with tongue and all, since I was so relieved.

But seriously, I hate you Pepco.

[Disclaimer: I really hope Pepco doesn’t know where I live. Please don’t disconnect me again for no reason and without warning again. It was a hellish experience, and I don’t ever ever ever want to deal with you again – I will be paying my bills when they are due, and hope to keep our interactions to this strict minimum.]

I can’t wait to get solar panels.

June 04, 2010

It Takes a Village: Siblings

My brother offered to help me work on the remaining items around my house, after his trip to China and France. Little did he know that he unleashed a floodgate of requests. Here's what I emailed:

I was thinking about the items that I still need help on in my house, since you so kindly offered :) None of them are particularly glamorous, but here goes:

- I have this lightbulb that got stuck in my fan and broke off. I need someone with muscles to use plier to remove the bottom part

- The front and back gardens are a mess. I'd love some help leveling the back garden, adding a couple of layers of dirt, building a tiny patio made from flagstone paving, and creating some rows for herbs and plants on the side. The problem is that it will be in mid-August, so not sure what we can do in the heat, but perhaps we can prepare the garden for the fall? I'll make sure to get a garden hose and pick up the millions of shards of glass before then

- The machine room is disgusting, and so I haven't yet done my laundry there. Mom was super sweet and sweated over it for a long time removing layers and layers of dust, old hangers, bricks etc. But it still looks like a bomb exploded in there. If you are willing, I'd love some help adding linoleum or tile sto the floor. The good thing is that it doesn't matter if it's messed up, so perhaps it'll be a good learning experience for the both of us in term of adding tile :) We could also install a couple of pegboards with metal holders to create a nice space for all the cleaning supplies

- I need a mega huge shelving unit for my basement so all the boxes are off the floor and don't get damp. I could get a unit for IKEA, or you could help me build one

- Apparently, my dryer isn't working. I'll be scouring Craigslist to find a new one. Could you help me connect it to hoses etc, if I haven't done it by August?

That didn't seem to discourage him, so I sent a subsequent email:

- Also, deck needs to be stained :)

It Takes a Village: Nosey Neighbor

My neighbor told me that he disapproved of a woman mowing the lawn in the afternoon after work, and proceeded to engage me on the topic for about 10 minutes... in a very animated manner... while I was cutting my front lawn.

Actually, I could probably do without that one.

It Takes a Village: Friends and Roomates

Friends have also being encouraging along the way, lifting my spirits when I felt like I was making the biggest mistake in the world.

As my brother says, “sure it’s a negative on the balance sheet. But as we Economists would say, it’s not an expense, it’s an investment”, which oddly, makes me feel a lot better.

I've received a number of nice offers for help repainting walls, removing wooden panels, and working on the garden.

A German friend came to the house, bearing bread and salt, two traditional items to welcome someone home. He also brought white wine, which we promptly drank for good measure.

Another friend dug up some flower buds from her garden and planted them in my flower bed in front.

A friend, knowing my fondness for his yellow Blenko pitcher, brought me an identical one for my kitchen.

My old roommate bought me a small lavender plants after hearing me talk for months about how excited I was to be able to plant rosemary and lavender in my front yard.

My ex-boyfriend helped me, in his very logical and mathematical way, to install an air conditioning unit in my bedroom window, and helped me navigate my mattress through the narrow hallways from my basement to my bedroom so I could have a place to sleep for the night.

My current roommate has done more than his fair share of the cleaning, and installed internet and cable in the house.

Thank you all for your invaluable help (and moral support)!

June 03, 2010

It Takes a Village: Parents

My parents have really helped, each in their own way. Dad was very supportive of me buying a rundown house, confident in my ability to turn things around. In hindsight, maybe his trust was a tad optimistic, but it seems that it turned out alright in the end. He has promised to build me a supersized closet for all my cleaning product and food storage, something that I plan to remind him of on a regular basis until it's completed! The house has practically no storage space, so it really requires coming up with some innovative storage solutions.

Mom was very cautionary from the start and at times downright disapproving, but once she saw the finished product, she came to help me do:
- Deep and energetic cleaning of windows,
- Removal of inches of dust from various surfaces including an old fan in my room (that I was reluctant to turn on in the heat, less it spread the dust evenly on my furniture and bedroom floor),
- Sweeping and resweeping the muddy/dusty/moldy basement area
- She also got me some pretty sweet pieces of furniture, and donated some kitchen items that are proving to be really useful (apparently a pot is pretty instrumental to heating water for my morning tea)

June 02, 2010

It Takes a Village: Contractor

My contractor hired some people who did a very good, though not perfect, job on the house. They essentially took a rundown, heavily water-damaged house, and:

- Created/modified all walls in the house
- Knocked down the wall between the tiny kitchen and the dining room, moved electrical wiring and piping back against the wall
- Put in a completely new kitchen
- Put in a completely new bathroom upstairs
- Transformed a weird den into a hallway and second bathroom
- Changed all windows in the den
- Removed all the dropped ceilings and leveled the plaster
- Sanded down the dubious wood underneath the carpets, and restored them to gleaming, shiny floors
- Completely redid the rotting roof (which the contractor couldn’t check due to the many layers of ceiling layers preventing access to the roof)
- Replaced rotting wood on the back porch
- Installed a kitchen island
- Added wood beams where the floor rotted out
- Replaced all light fixtures
- Did a heavy-up on the electricity (essential giving me more power than the previous owners had, since nowadays, people want to put in window air conditioners, have computers/ipods/blackberries which requires a lot more electricity)
- Roughed-in the old bathroom in the basement (which means removing the dirty toilet but replacing the pipes and preparing them so that if I want to recreate a bathroom, I can just add the toilet and shower without having to redivert piping and dig new holes in the floor)
- Restored a beautiful Petworth skylight in the bathroom
- Repaired two closets
- Painted all walls, front porch, and wooden balustrade
- Added carpet in the basement
- Replaced all appliances except the dryer

The work they performed was very good quality, and they rarely cut corners or used materials of inferior quality. I consider myself lucky, though I did significantly go over budget (mainly due to the addition of a second bathroom and the new roof).

It Takes a Village: Realtor

I started off with a realtor who didn’t know D.C. very well, was frequently one hour late to our appointment, and needed a GPS to get from one block to the next. She was hard to pin down, and I felt like I was asking to much by requesting to see houses once a week. She would reluctantly show me houses in neighborhoods that she didn’t approve of. She never knew if the house she proposed were anywhere near a metro, or what amenities were available in the neigborhood.

On every trip, she would spend 20 min on the phone with her 4-year old daughter while driving, gushing “yes moooommy luuuurrrves you. Oh yes you are such a sweetie pie. What did you do today? Oh wow and after the painting? Oh great and what was in your lunch? And how about after playtime? Did you have a great little nap? Mommy loves her little sweetings”.

It was cute and terribly distracting at the same time, and made me feel like she didn’t really have the time to dedicate to helping me. Every trip was exhausting.

I then worked with a great realtor who lived in DC, so straight from the beginning; I knew she was knowledgeable about city and she wasn’t scared or biased towards certain neighborhood. She had a great sense of direction, and very quickly sensed what places I liked. She was understanding when I hesitated, and would recommend we continue searching.

She was encouraging when my three first contracts feel through, sensing my deep sense of disappointment and letting me know there were other places out there for me to see. She always took my phone call and was hyperflexible about dates and timing to see houses.

It takes a village…

… to build a house (sorry Hillary Clinton)

I haven’t given many updates on the house, mainly because it’s been a whirlwind of activities in the last 2 months. Here’s a brief list of people who have helped me through this house buying and renovation process:
- Realtor
- Contractors
- Parents
- Friends and Roomate
- Nosey Neighbor
- Siblings